Morocco is a small country located in Northern Africa, sharing shores with both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It is a country rich in different cultures, with both European and Arabic influences and backgrounds. It is not surprising that this area of the globe is the breeding ground for vibrant, colorful art and culture. This is why Moroccan tile makes the list amongst the Olympians of tile – it stands alone due to its history and plethora of design.
Moroccan tile history traces back to early 700 AD, during times of kingdoms and conquests. The Moors conquered Spain and in doing so, their influences were introduced. This included a unique way of painting ceramic tiles. It is rumored that the origin of the designs came out of artistic limitations for Muslims. Due to strict Islamic law, they were not allowed to draw or depict living people or beings. They discovered how to express themselves through shapes and other designs of enamel-covered terracotta tile, which was named Zellige.
Another process of tile design, handed down from generation to generation is the unique art of Islamic tile mosaics (or kellij). Recently, scholars of art, mathematics, engineering and computer science have begun to study the complicated patterns and designs of kellij – which holds a deeper meaning than just beautiful colors and patterns.
As you can see, tile artisans produce beautiful, symmetrical designs on tile, with bright colors and bold shapes. The attention to detail is critical in the process of creating zellige, as the small-shaped, painted pieces are then put together in geometrical structure to form a completed, single mosaic. Today, there is an inspiration that has arisen from Moroccan tile – with bursts of colors and flair. Gone are the entirely muted neutrals, and more and more there are designers and homeowners embracing the look and character of beautiful, intricate, colorful Moroccan tile.